The above photo is a newspaper clipping, the only one I could find online from my rape saga in 1997. Rape culture is real. I was raped by a serial rapist sociopath.
EDIT: Since the time of writing I have received a copy of my case report from the Austin Police Department. At the bottom of this post, I’ve added some pics from the report data and my apartment crime scene, as well as a poloroid they took of me after the rape.
I’m wanting to share about this because I’m sick of reading all the articles on social media talking about rape culture without putting my two cents in finally. I haven’t talked much about it mainly because of how it affects people when I tell the story. I’ve had friends tell me that it gave them nightmares, that they were horrified and scared to walk around by themselves at night after hearing the story. So I shut up, I decided if it was going to hurt people to tell them, then I would just put on a happy face and be “positive.”
Now, it feels like the time is ripe for the story to come out. I think that more people can benefit by it and it’s necessary for my own healing and for others. So I invite you to go on the journey with me.
Allow your heart to soften and feel. It’s ugly, it’s scary, and it’s ok to feel.
That’s the message that I’ve been telling myself as I’m unraveling it all. So bless you and your heart, here we go!There’s so much sexual violence out there right now. Cosby, Priests raping little boys, coaches raping athletes, college athletes raping young women. The list goes on and on. Not to mention all the rapes that happen to children, from inside the families, from neighbors and even kids down the street. There really is a strong and fully functioning rape culture.
So if you haven’t experienced any kind of sexual violence in your life and are wondering what the big fuss is all about, read this please. If you wonder why women don’t do a better job protecting themselves, or do stupid stuff like drink too much, then get raped, please read this…
Rape is rape. Rape happens, all over the world to males and females. It’s long-standing in our culture, and I believe a sign of how disconnected we are from each other and our hearts.
Sobonfu Some said of her tribal way of living in Burkina Faso, that rape and child molestation was almost nonexistent because of the tight-knit weaving of their community.
It’s also a sign of how skewed is the understanding of personal dignity, sovereignty of one’s body, and respect for fellow humans. I see it as a generalized fear of sexuality and fear of feeling. So people choose to violently overpower one who represents sex and feeling. Someone who reminds them of their own vulnerability when they’d rather not face that side of themselves. They feel safer being disconnected.
So here’s my story of rape (WARNING, graphic and scary):
I am one of the very small percentage of people who was raped by a stranger. You know, the stories they put into your head about all rapists being strange masked men hiding in the bushes, well about 80% or more rapes are actually known attackers.
Mine is the minority.
When I was 22, I was at home one night. I had been out earlier with a platonic male friend. It was Sept 4, 1997, in Austin Texas. My air conditioner had gone out in my tiny little apartment, my first place on my own, without roommates.
I woke up hot and sticky and decided to walk into the living room and sleep on my couch under the ceiling fan. It was around 5AM. I was groggy and as I stepped around the corner into the living room, I saw the silhouette of a man, dimly lit by the heat lamp in my lizard’s cage.
At first I was confused, was that Jeff, my friend who I’d been out with? Was he still here? I thought he left when he dropped me off….
No, wait, that’s not Jeff, that’s a stranger. What the hell? I let out a short, weak, astonished scream. He lunged forward in the darkness, grabbed me and turned me around, covering my mouth with a stinky medical-gloved hand. (For years that smell brought back terrifying flashbacks)
He whispered either “Be quiet or I’ll hurt you,” or “be quiet or I’ll cut you.” I was too groggy to remember. I quickly shut up.
He then proceeded to take my t-shirt that I was wearing and pull it over my head and tucked it under my chin, so I couldn’t see him. Then he turned me around and taped my wrists together in front of me.
He sat me down on my bed and told me what was going to happen. He explained that he was going to have sex with me and then clean-up and then leave. He encouraged me to behave, and if I did so he wouldn’t hurt me. (as if the rape didn’t hurt – Rape Culture)
He then wanted to talk to me about life and such. All his speech was in a whisper, I guess so I couldn’t recognize or identify his voice later. He had a strong southern/texan accent. For years the sound of a whisper would send me into fight or flight shock.
He brought up topics like how hard Mexicans work, my car, and more. He told me he hoped his parents never found out about this, that it would hurt them so bad. He also wondered which would be worse, to come home and find your home burglarized or this.
Can we say, sociopath, anyone? – Rape Culture
Another thing he talked about was how bad it would be for me if I reported this to the police. He mentioned that they would be very insensitive to me and I would probably regret doing it. He said it would be a big incident and would take over my life if I brought it to the police.
At one point he said we knew each other in high school and that he had shown interest, but I wasn’t interested in him. (This was a lie to confuse me.) Then he he told me that since I was behaving so well, he would remove the tape from my wrists, and he did so.
He tried to sit and have me mount him on my bed but I made my body stiff and awkward, as a way to exert the tiniest bit of control in the situation. He then took me by the hand, interlacing his fingers romantically with mine, and walked me over to the couch. Again, I made my body stiff and awkward. It was so weird and a total mind f#@% how he acted like we were on a date or something.
I asked him if he had a condom and he said no. Then he went outside and I heard him shuffling through a bag or something. (Remember, the shirt is over my head the whole time so I’m not seeing anything, just hearing.) He must have brought a condom in and said he did in fact have one. I was grateful.
Then he walked me back over to the bed, again interlacing his fingers with mine. He laid me down and got on top of me. He kissed my chest and breasts, and pulled the shirt off my face a tiny bit to kiss my cheek. He put the condom on and entered me, thrusting slowly but steadily. It hurt a little because I was dry, but I was pretty checked out of my body so I didn’t feel much.
At one point, he asked me, “Could you get into it a little more?” I wasn’t sure what to do so I grabbed his butt and squeezed it while he thrusted. I remember it felt juicy, not like a skinny man’s butt.
You might be wondering how all this felt emotionally. I remember after he explained what was going to happen, I just felt my whole life force/vibration tone way way down. For years when thinking about it, it reminded me of the scene in Back to the Future at the beginning, when Michael J Fox plugged in his guitar to the amps. Then you see him turning all the knobs up to full power and you hear the sounds of the amplification and buzz going up.
Well this was the opposite.
It was like I was turning all my knobs all the way down, disassociating as much as possible and vibrating on the least amount of energy to just get through the experience.
So I guess he had an orgasm, I don’t really remember if he did or not, but he was done and pulled out. The whole penetrative sex act took about 5 minutes. He was in my apartment for an hour and a half total, from 5AM – 7:30AM.
Next, he walked me into the bathroom and had me step into the shower, keeping the shirt over my head so I still couldn’t see anything. He turned on the water, got it to a comfortable temperature and handed me the soap. He told me to wash my body all over, to remove all evidence. He said he was going to stand right there and watch me to make sure I did a good job.
I washed my body while he watched. Then he wrapped me in my towel and sat me on the toilet. He said I needed to sit there while he cleaned up the evidence in my apartment.
I sat there in a trance while listening to him going around the apartment, spraying cleaners and moving stuff around. He came in multiple times to check on me. He explained that when he was done, I was to sit there for 10 minutes and not move or take the shirt off or call the cops. He said he was going to wait outside on my porch and watch to make sure I complied.
I was nervous about how long the 10 minutes would be so I asked him to set my alarm. He set the alarm and continued cleaning, the alarm going off a few times, and he had to reset it.
Finally, he came in and said he was done and that he had just set the alarm for 10 minutes. Then he left. I sat and sat and sat in the silence.
I was sure that when I took my shirt off my head he would be sitting on my bed with a gun and would shoot me.
The alarm went off.
In terror, and very slowly, I pulled the shirt off my head. I timidly looked into my bedroom and saw nobody. Then I slowly emerged from the bathroom, towel wrapped around me and went into my bedroom. Nobody there, nobody in the living room or kitchen.
I surveyed the apartment. He had removed and taken the couch cushion covers of my beautiful antique couch and tidied everything up nicely. I went to the phone to call the police, but he had removed the receiver from the base so I couldn’t call. This guy was such a professional rapist. I can only assume he had done way more times than the 5 women he got convicted for over the years.
Terrified and in a rush, I grabbed my keys and purse and walked up to the manager’s apartment, barefoot and in my towel. (Thank God he lived on site.)
He let me in and I called the cops first, then my mom.
The rest was a whirlwind. Victim services came to take me to the hospital. The driver was real nice. They took me in, and the official victim services woman, Lupita, came. She was a smart, no-nonsense, strong Mexican woman. I will forever be grateful to her strength and handling of everything at the hospital.
Then a rape crisis volunteer came in and touched my leg and said something like “honey tell me all about it.” I cringed and had Lupita send her away. I was way too sensitive for some woo woo volunteer with her 20 bracelets and touchy feely ways.
They took me to the SANE nurse (sexual assault nurse examiner.) She was very very compassionate and gentle as she examined my body and took swabs from all over. She said I had some small tears in my vagina from him entering me while I was unlubricated. Google SANE nurses, they are wonderful and have specialized training. I heard years later from someone who knew that nurse that she was incredibly affected by my experience and the experiences of the other women who were raped by Harold.
They gave me some strong antibiotics in case of stds. It turns out Mr. careful forgot to have me wash my face and they ended up getting DNA evidence from a swab of my face. They also ended up getting an even stronger sample from the girl he raped exactly a week later.
My sister flew in from Houston and my mom drove in. The three of us stayed in a nice hotel for the night. I threw up, sick from the antibiotics, my body finally safe enough to reject the whole experience.
Thank God for my family.
They helped so much in handling things in the coming days. My dad drove in from Houston and my brother and sister in law drove in from San Antonio. They got us a place to stay about 30 minutes away at my sister-in-law’s relative’s house.
The coming days were filled with investigators, victim services forms, getting moved out of my apartment and into the apartment that I ironically was going to move into just two weeks after the rape, with my friend Jeff who I’d been out with earlier the night of the rape.
There were numerous uncomfortable incidents with the police, just like Harold, the rapist, had warned me of. One was while we were doing a walk-through of my apartment with the investigators.
I was foggy on a few of the details and he told me I had to do my best to remember. He said they wanted to catch this guy even more than I did. (Rape Culture) I was so sad and pissed when he said that. I knew for sure that I wanted the guy caught more than they did. Later in the week, the cops showed up in full uniform to my job to give me back my driver’s license which I’d accidentally left at the fingerprinting office. I was so embarrassed and ashamed.
Later, at the courts, I learned from one of the other women that the cops didn’t see where he had drilled a hole into her door knob to break the locking mechanism, so they said she must have “dreamed it.” (Rape Culture) Pathetic. They did for sure try to be compassionate, but fell short on multiple occasions.
I won’t go into all the details of the aftermath, but in summary…
I ended up in a great support group at the rape crisis center. The woman who was raped a week after me was denied access to the group by the DA offices so that we wouldn’t “taint each other’s stories.” None of us 3 women (they found out later about the 4th who was raped earlier in June) were ever allowed to meet or talk to each other. I was really sad that the woman after me had been denied access to the support group. She was receiving private therapy there at least.
I had to quit my telemarketing job because I couldn’t get on the phone with people and talk to them anymore. Before I quit though, my boss helped me hire a lawyer to sue the apartment complex for lack of security. I was torn about the lawsuit, but it ended up really saving my ass. (The sliding glass door had no pin-lock which was required by state law and that’s how he got in.) More about the civil suit later…
They caught him a couple of months after the rape. The sickening thing was they told me they knew who he was within 2 weeks of my rape, but they couldn’t arrest him till they caught him red-handed doing something. Rape Culture
So he raped yet another woman, the third after me, after they knew who he was.
Then they caught him burglarizing a car and arrested him. It really tore me up that they knew who he was and let him rape another woman. I felt so out of control. It was the state’s case, I was always just a “witness” to this horrible act done to my person and at least 3 other women. (4 if you count the underage woman he drugged and raped 6 years prior when he was 20)
I finally had the chance to meet the other women in court when he plead guilty. I was glad he was caught but felt frustrated that the DA plea bargained with him to allow him to run all 4 life sentences at the same time rather than stacking them one after the other. (In Texas if someone had a prior sexual assault conviction, any subsequent convictions got them an immediate life sentence with no chance for parole for 35 years.)
This feels like more just sentencing though, compared to little slaps on the wrist I’ve been seeing in the news here in California. So he is in prison still, not eligible for parole till he’s in his 60s in 2027. He’s housed with all the other rapists, and from what I remember from meeting him in court and his mugshot, he was kinda pretty so who knows what kind of treatment he’s getting from the other rapists.
Each of us women were allowed to make our statement to him. It’s called right of allocution. It’s an opportunity to tell the defendant how their actions have affected your life.
So I stood there, facing him in court for the first time with my own eyes seeing him. (I first ever saw him on the news coverage when they showed his mugshot.)
I stood there, crying softly and said a few things about how it had affected me. I didn’t have too much to say as I was still in shock. He just sat there quietly (they aren’t allowed to talk). I wasn’t sure what I was reading on his face, it was either remorse, or just feeling really shitty that he was going to spend the next 35 years in prison.
I was able to witness the woman from June, who had some months to really settle into the effects give her testament to him. She was enraged and yelled at him. It was intense and powerful to watch her. I wasn’t at the stage yet to get that riled up about it. I was still feeling too weak and dissociated.
Interestingly, when he was in jail during the process, and later in prison, my civil lawyer visited him multiple times. He got the whole story from him in jail. Harold said he had seen me on the freeway driving home from work. He followed me home to check out my living situation. He said he followed women home all the time. The ones who had bad security and an easy way in, he would plan out his course of action and rape them.
He listed out all the ways my apartment was ideal and easy, from the privacy fence around my patio, to the corner location, to the big shade tree which made it easy to hop the fence and provided more protection, to the lack of security lights, to the missing pin lock on the sliding glass door.
He had first learned my patterns of coming and going, sometimes hiding out on my patio to watch me without me knowing. He jimmied the lock on my bedroom window and let himself in while I was away at work. Then he learned more about me by going through my stuff while I was away. He broke the latch on my sliding glass door and greased down the track so it would slide open silently on the big night. He did all this in preparation for the rape. I didn’t notice the lock being broken as I always used the front door to come and go from the apartment.
Then, back to the beginning of the story, he easily and silently let himself in through the sliding glass door on the morning of the rape, where I found him in the living room.
In the coming months, I became a temp worker, going from secretarial job to secretarial job while I tried to get back into my body and just survive the constant flight or fight response of my sympathetic nervous system.
I was scared to walk from one room to another in our apartment. Sometimes when my roommate was gone I’d just lean up against the most safe feeling wall where I could see most of the apartment and slide down crying, immobilized in terror. I checked every lock and closet door and behind every shower curtain for years looking for the guy or one of his buddies after he was caught. Driving at night and seeing someone in a shadow would scare the shit out of me and send a huge adrenalin rush throughout my whole body.
I remember the first time I went out to a bar after the incident. It was months later and with some sweet and caring girlfriends.
I remember the first gentle guy who I had sex with afterwards.
I remember the first time I lived alone years later and how scared I was in my home.
I ended up selling my expensive car, buying a crappy old VW bug and got a job at a coffee shop, leaving corporate america and then travelling to Southern Mexico for the first of many trips.
Slowly I started searching for a deeper meaning to life. I was at once so so grateful for my life having been spared and also depressed and felt like I was in some fucked-up rape victim club that I never knew existed.
I remember looking up at the stars and feeling connected to every woman around the world who had ever been sexually abused or assaulted.
Even though we had incest in our family, it never fully hit home, the reality of sexual abuse, until the trauma of my rape as an adult. I’m not sure why, maybe because I was an adult and could really understand it? Maybe because of the level of trauma to my nervous system…
A couple of years later, the civil case finished. I had to go through an exhausting video-taped deposition by the insurance company of the apartment complex where they dove deep into my sexual history as if to try to prove I somehow asked for it. Rape Culture, anyone? Even so, their lawyer pulled me aside afterwards and told me how brave she thought I was. We ended up winning in mediation.
My two male lawyers were my knights in shining armor. Not once did they treat me insensitively like the criminal prosecution and investigators did. This case was “my” case, not the state’s case. I was more than just a “witness.” They were the ones who put the pieces together about what really happened, how he found me and such. They did the work pro-bono for a percentage of the settlement. I’ll forever be grateful for their diligence and championing me while I was too weak and downtrodden to know how to pick up the pieces.
So here I am, almost 41 years old. 19 years later. Still affected.
I remember there was a woman in the rape group who had been raped 8 years prior. I had big judgement for her still being affected. I also remember an insensitive guy at work, three weeks after the rape mentioning it casually and saying that I was probably over it by then. Yes, that’s exactly rape culture.
Yet here I am. Still stuck in chronic sympathetic nervous system overdrive. Still without any healthy romantic relationships. With chronic health issues probably mostly stemming from my body’s constant terror for years after the event.
I’ve searched far and wide, studied many spiritual paths, expressed the depths of my soul creatively, done spiritual and physical cleanses of my body and soul, meditated, studied yoga and hypnotherapy, and now am seeing two amazing therapists. One cognitive behavioral and one body-centered/ EMDR therapist. It’s all helped, yet the experience will never leave me fully, though the memory is already a faded dream of long ago.
I’m learning to integrate it all better by allowing myself the fullness of the feelings, offering no resistance. I allow the softness of my own breath, body and gift of life to support and love me as I trust the process. I’m learning to slow down, be present and more gentle with myself.
I have faith that with my continued path of growth and healing, both for myself and in my own healing arts practice, I will continue to soften and relax into the peace and pleasure of my own being. I definitely have fun and have some wonderful moments. I am a super proud mama of a beautiful child who I’m raising to be a strong man.
I’m a passionate advocate for righting AND writing the worlds wrongs. I’m finally able to surrender and let a trustworthy man guide me into beautiful moments of sexual connection.
It’s taken years of work though. That money I won with the lawsuit was blood money for sure. It allowed me to slowly put myself back together without needing to work for a few years.
One day I hope to attract a wonderful man who can see my strength and how far I’ve come. Someone who will appreciate all the work I’m doing and the work I still have to do to fully heal from this experience.
This writing is part of that healing.
I hope it has served you in some way. If only to know you’re not alone. Healing is possible. Persevere and you will find peace little by little.
If you’ve never experienced the trauma of sexual assault and have read this far, hopefully you will feel more compassion and passion to fight for what’s right. Speak up when you hear or read victim blaming. Don’t watch rape scenes on movies. Listen when a friend needs a non-judging ear. Learn about rape culture in our world and how to help educate people.
If you feel moved by this story and would like to share how it’s affected you or any actions you would like to take after reading, please leave a comment below. Your words are like medicine for my healing. Thank you.
Thanks for listening to me. I am another you.
Jaya (Carrie) Phillips
Links for more info:
Biggest organization with lots of resources…
Tips for family and friends of survivors:
Raising Children Outside of Rape Culture Norms:
Long-term effects of Sexual Assault:
Most campus rapes are serial rapists:
A couple of wonderful short videos about consent:
PICS FROM THE ACTUAL RAPE CASE
Photo by Alyssa Keys Photography